Troubleshooter: Social Security overpayment

September 17, 2008 4:20:58 PM PDT
A mistake left a Rocky Mount family owing more than $10,000 to the government. When they couldn't understand how this could happen, they called Troubleshooter Diane Wilson.This all started in the summer of 2006 when Nicole Bennett's son Zachary was born 13 weeks premature. Being a preemie, Zachary required extensive medical care. Nicole tells Troubleshooter Diane Wilson, "When he was born the nicu social worker is the one who informed us there were options that could help us as his hospital bills were well into the millions and she told us to go through social security and apply for it being on disability.

Nicole applied for supplemental security income trough Social Security for Zachary. Within weeks he was approved for monthly payments. She adds, "It was direct deposited in our account. We used every penny for him. For diapers, doctor visits, taking him back to NICU to make sure he was healthy and safe."

These payments continued for a year and a half, until March when she get a letter from Social Security Administration that stated Zachary has been overpaid and should not have been getting the monthly payments. Now the Bennett's owe more than $10,000 back to the government. The government did say she could repay the money in increments of $100.00 a month.

The reason for the over payment is because Nicole says a rep told her they knew where she worked, but did not have recorded how much she made. A mistake Nicole says she can't understand. She adds, "We never denied them this information we were honest from the beginning."

Troubleshooter Diane Wilson talked with Social Security. They admitted they didn't catch the mistake until the IRS reported the Bennett's wage information, which they say did not agree with what the Bennett's reported to Social Security. It's a costly mistake, Nicole can't understand. She adds, "We were in communication several times and none of this was discovered."

The Bennett's have appealed this decision and did have a hearing in front of the Social Security Administration. A rep for Social Security said they're reviewing the Bennett's wage information and should have a decision within 30 days. The rep also said that since supplemental security income is a needs basis program with limits on income and resources, it is very important that people report income and resource changes timely; it is the responsibility of the recipient to report accurate information.

    Here are some more tips from the Social Security Administration:
  • Income should be reported monthly. You can work with the local office for the method that works best such as mailing pay stubs or reporting by phone.
  • ALL correspondence from Social Security should be read thoroughly. A letter will be mailed EVERY time there is a change to the record and will include the basis for all payments. Errors or omissions should be reported immediately for corrective action.
  • Social Security should be contacted immediately If a change is reported and no letter is received within a few weeks acknowledging the report.
  • A letter or phone explanation can be requested from Social Security at any time regarding how benefits are calculated and what income and resources are being considered.

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